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© 2019 Benjamin’s Fiction — All Rights Reserved

11.

The stories within "How to Drink Bourbon & Soda with Rocks" are completely true. The names have been changed to protect the heroes and villains.

NINETEEN NINETY-NINE

Vincent kept his hands positioned on the steering wheel precisely as the desert highway patrolman had ordered.

"Keep your hands on the wheel and don't move a god damn muscle" were the exact instructions.

Vincent complied. No god damn muscles were moved.

He did, though, look through the rearview mirror and say to himself, "Man, that is a holy fuck-ton of desert highway patrolmen."

Their hands were on their guns.

They did not look happy.

He saw Julius standing in the middle of them—being spoken to by what appeared to be the desert highway patrolman in charge.

Vincent couldn't read lips, but he thought he could make out the word “bugs,” or “rugs,” or “hugs.”

Nope. None of those.

The word bouncing off the lips of the highway patrolman in charge was definitely "drugs."

Editor's note: As much as Vincent enjoys this part of the story—let’s back up. Somewhere closer to the beginning. No reason to eat dessert before dinner.

TWO BROTHERS

Once upon a time, there were two brothers.

Two brothers named Vincent and Julius Benedict.

Their similarities began with their last name.

Their similarities ended with their last name.

Julius was tall, skinny, athletic, quiet and a bit of a worrier.

Vincent was shorter but not short, fatter but not fat, loud, creative and a bit reckless.

Julius was years older and appeared years younger.

They would not instantly be recognized as brothers. They would not be recognized as brothers in a long string of instantlys.

It wasn't just how they looked. It was every detail about them.

Personalities. Demeanors. East and West on the same map.

PROFESSOR & WRITER

It was Monday—four days before New Year’s Eve.

Vincent was working the afternoon shift at a cozy pseudo Irish bar that sat just off a snowy Midwestern interstate.

It would be his last shift—for a while at least. He was going on a trip.

A trip spurred by a conversation a few months earlier in the cozy pseudo Irish bar between himself and two esteemed gentlemen—a writer and a professor.

It went something like this:

"Vincent, have you ever seen that western with the two outlaw hero cowboys?" the professor asked.

"That describes dozens of westerns," the writer said.

Vincent just listened.

"The two outlaw hero cowboys are being chased by an unrelenting force," the professor said.

"Dozens of westerns," the writer said.

"The two outlaw hero cowboys get stuck. They are on a cliff's edge. Literally. With the unrelenting force approaching, nearly on top of them, they have only one avenue of escape. A raging river far below them."

"Oh, I have seen this one."

"One hero outlaw cowboy says to the other, 'We've gotta jump.’"

"And the other outlaw hero cowboy says, 'No way, I can't swim.'"

"Exactly. He can't swim."

"And the other outlaw hero cowboy says, "’Doesn't matter. The fall will kill ya.’"

"Exactly. On the cliff's edge. Chased by an unrelenting force. They have no choice. They have to jump."

"So, they do. They leap."

"And the current of the raging river whisks them away to freedom."

"Such a good movie."

"Vincent, sometimes you just have to jump. There is no other choice."

S T E V E

Vincent thought about that conversation as Julius walked into the empty cozy pseudo Irish bar.

"Is the stout rancid?" Julius asked.

"I don't think so. You are the only one that drinks it though."

Vincent poured the stout and asked, "Excited?"

"Yeah. Driving twenty some hours? No."

"We will make it in less."

"When is your friend getting here?"

"Should be here soon. We can leave directly after."

A few stouts later, while Vincent was away, a pasty-white kid named Steve Stifler walked into the cozy pseudo Irish bar and propped himself on a barstool next to Julius.

Julius looked over and could not help but notice the giant tattoo that ran down Steve's arm.

Big bold gothic letters inked vertically on a blood-red background.

It read:

S T E V E

"Hey homey. I'm Steve," he said to Julius.

"Ha. Yeah, I noticed."

"You must be Vincent's brother. You ready for this road trip or what?"

Vincent returned, saw them together and said, "Hey Steve, good to see ya. This is—"

"—yeah, we did that already," Julius said.

Steve pulled a folded paper map of the country from his back pocket and spread it across the bar. He began to draw his finger down the route he suggested they take.

"I checked everything out. We can stop here tonight," he jammed his finger down on the map, "and then tomorrow, here," he jammed his finger down again, "and then the next day we might be able to get there, but just in case we could stop here," and jammed his finger down one last time.

Julius slowly took a drink from his stout and then said, "Yeah, we could do that. But Vincent and I were thinking we could get there in one shot."

"One shot?" Steve asked.

"Yeah. Straight through," Vincent said.

"Without stopping?" Steve asked.

"Without stopping," Julius said.

"I am gonna need sleep," Steve said. "Besides, my banged-up hooptie couldn’t take it."

They were taking two cars. Steve would be driving his banged-up hooptie, and Vincent would be with Julius in his ruby-red go-fast machine.

There was a reason two cars were needed: Only one was coming back.

 

TOASTERS

After stouts were finished and Vincent clocked out, Vincent, Julius and Steve walked to the parking lot to the banged-up hooptie and ruby-red go-fast machine.

“Steve, that is definitely a banged-up hooptie,” Vincent said. “How much shit do you have crammed in that thing?”

“All my stuff, homey.”

 

Julius peaked in through the back window and asked, “How many toasters do you need, Steve?”

 

“One is for bagels.”

"Ok, then," Vincent said. "We should hit the road."

"Who should lead?" Steve asked.

Vincent looked at the banged-up overloaded hooptie and said, "Why don't we lead. If you need anything just call us."

"I don't have one of those cellular phones," Steve said. "I'll just flash my lights."

"Yeah, Steve. Flash your lights and we'll take the next exit," Julius said as he grew tired of the conversation and hopped into the passenger seat of the ruby-red go-fast machine.

"Steve, if we lose each other, we will just meet at the first stop you pointed out on the map. Cool, cool?" Vincent asked.

"Okay. Don't go too fast."

"Not too fast."

THE FUTURE

For the first fifty miles, Vincent did not let the ruby-red go-fast machine dip under ninety.

"You are going way too fast," Julius repeatedly said as he kept craning over to look at the speedometer.

"It is all good; I have this little guy," Vincent said as he tapped on the brick of a radar detector velcroed to the dash. "Truckers and shit swear by this model. It can detect cops for like twenty miles."

"Where'd you get it?"

"World wide web."

"So dumb."

"The future."

"Dumb. All a fad. No one but you would give your credit card information over a computer not knowing where it was really going."

"I think he's flashing his lights," Vincent said as he looked in the rearview mirror. "But I can't really tell. He's a ways back there."

"We are barely out of the city, and you are going way too fast."

The ruby-red go-fast machine took the next exit and pulled into the nearest gas station.

The banged-up overloaded hooptie pulled in shortly behind—Steve hopped out and said, "Hey homies, just gotta pee. Need anything?"

"Nope. Nope. We're good," Vincent said.

Steve ran into the station and Julius asked Vincent, "How did you meet this friend of yours again?"

"He's a classmate of mine."

"What class?"

"Acting."

"Jesus."

COMMANDEER

Back on the road and Vincent was tired of going slow. He took the ruby-red go-fast machine up to one hundred and twenty miles an hour, and that is where it stayed.

Julius' objections were considered and overruled by Vincent's lead foot.

The banged-up overloaded hooptie disappeared behind the two brothers.

"We will meet up with him at that first stop," Vincent said. "We are not staying in some Midwestern roach motel. We are all driving straight through. Even if you have to commandeer the banged-up overloaded hooptie. Steve-from-acting-class can nap in this car since his toasters will be riding shotgun with you. Cool, cool?"

"Sure. I can drive Steve-from-acting-class's hooptie."

TURNPIKE MATH

The ruby-red go-fast machine pulled onto a Midwestern turnpike and up to a manned tollbooth. Vincent took a card from the operator and went on his way—his way back to one hundred and twenty miles an hour.

Sometime later Julius took a look at the tollbooth turnpike card and said, "You know this is time-stamped, right? Can't they just check how long it took us to go from one end of the turnpike to the other? Do math and stuff. Figure out we are going way too fucking fast."

"Jesus. I didn't think about that."

"Your world wide web detector gonna get us out of that one?"

Vincent reluctantly slowed down and asked, "Think anything is going to happen?"

"Maybe a speeding ticket. I don’t know.”

“No. Y2K. Anything going to happen?”

"I don't know."

"Whole world is not going to blow up? No Armageddon?"

"Nah. Just computer stuff, right? Might be a little crazy. Lights go out. Things out of whack."

"Yeah, right? A shame, really. Was kinda looking forward to chaos."

"Well, you probably won't be able to give strangers your credit card number on the world wide web for a while. So, there’s that."

WITH AN S

Editor's note: Vincent does not recall exactly how long they waited in the parking lot of the Midwestern roach motel--the first stop on Steve-from-acting-class's folded paper map. Vincent said, "It seemed like ten lifetimes."

"You don't know Steve very well, do you?" Julius asked Vincent.

"I know him enough."

"What's Steve's last name?"

"It starts with an S. I think."

"You are moving cross-country with someone whose last name you think starts with an S."

"He is Steve-from-acting-class. And we are just gonna be roommates. Maybe. He has family down there and I am going to school."

"Moving thousands of miles with a stranger. We are so different."

“Roommates. Maybe. We are both moving to the same spot. Why not give it a shot?”

“A stranger.”

“It is not like I am marrying the dude.”

“I think you would have no problem marrying a stranger.”

“I would not marry a stranger.”

"I am not so sure about that."

Steve-from-acting-class’s banged-up overloaded hooptie pulled into the parking lot—lights flashing, horn honking.

Steve-from-acting-class hopped out and said, "Hey homies! Thought you ditched me. You guys drive fast. Should we check in?"

"Here's the thing, Steve-from-acting-class—Julius and I think it would be best if we just keep driving."

"Seriously, homies? I am so tired. You guys gotta be tired."

"Nah. We're good," Julius said.

"I can't make it another mile," Steve-from-acting-class said.

Vincent and Julius told Steve-from-acting-class the plan. Throwing in that there would be more time to look for apartments if they didn't spend the night in roach motels along the way.

Steve-from-acting-class said, "Ok, homies. If that's what you want to do. I am down," and tossed the keys to the banged-up overloaded hooptie to Julius.

With Steve-from-acting-class passed out in the passenger seat of the ruby-red go-fast machine, Vincent cranked it back up to one hundred and twenty miles an hour.

Meanwhile, Julius was in the banged-up overloaded hooptie wrestling toasters and trying to keep up.

Which he did.

Editor’s note: Julius would like to reiterate that he has no idea how he kept up with Vincent for eight hundred miles, or survived the stench of the banged-up overloaded hooptie. “It was a miracle.”

ARRIVAL

The two brothers drove straight through. Just like they said they would. Stopping just outside the Southwestern city that was their destination.

Steve-from-acting-class hopped out of the passenger side of the ruby-red go-fast machine and switched back with Julius.

"That fucking banged-up overloaded hooptie makes it another mile and I will be shocked," Julius said, then noticed the pungent order of fried ass, "Oh my god. My god."

"I can't live with that dude," Vincent said.

"Oh, come on. The smell could easily be you."

"His smell is not my major concern.”

"Well, we're here now. Let's get into the city, get something to eat and take it from there."

SOGGY HARD-SHELL TACOS

Vincent and Julius had culture shock entering the Southwestern city. It wasn't the dry heated air. It wasn't the cemented and rocked yards. It wasn't the transplanted palm trees or anything of the sort.

The first thing they noticed was the same franchised Mexican-themed fast-food chain on every corner. Not every other corner. Every. Single. Corner.

"I am not eating soggy fast-food tacos. I'm just not," Julius said, and Vincent agreed.

Vincent saw Steve-from-acting-class in the rearview mirror flashing his lights.

Vincent pulled into a lot—Steve-from-acting-class pulled in beside him and said, "Hey homies, let’s go to that franchised Mexican-themed fast-food chain over there."

So, they did.

Standing in front of the cashier at the franchised Mexican-themed fast-food chain, Julius turned to Steve-from-acting-class and said, "Get whatever you want. It’s on me."

Steve-from-acting-class leaned forward and said, "I would like fifteen hard-shell tacos, please."

"Fifteen fucking hard-shell tacos?" Vincent blurted out.

"Hey homey, I am hungry."

Vincent and Julius watched Steve-from-acting-class devour fifteen soggy hard-shell tacos in five minutes. Not a second more.

THE APARTMENT

After their inaugural Southwestern city meal, it was time to get down to business.

They checked into a hotel and put their plan into action.

Over the next three days, they scoured the city for apartments.

Apartments that Vincent and Steve-from-acting-class could both agree on.

No such apartments existed.

No such apartments would ever exist.

DREAM CRUSHER

It was Friday morning.

Julius' clock was ticking. He wasn't on this journey out of pure altruistic brotherly love. There was somewhere he wanted to be.

A somewhere not so far away from the Southwestern city.

A city known worldwide.

A city known for gambling.

"It was a noble effort, guys. Really was. But somehow, I don't think you two are going to find what you are looking for," Julius said.

"It’s only been three days, homey," Steve-from-acting-class said.

"Three more weeks is not going to help you guys," Julius said. "Not to be a dream crusher."

"You’re not being a dream crusher. We know what we are doing. We thought we would give it a shot," Vincent said.

"Yeah, homey. No dream crushin'. My aunt lives down here. Was gonna stay with her for a bit anyway,” Steve-from-acting-class said.

"It is not like we expected to find a place and move in in a day. We were just checking things out,” Vincent said.

"Okay then. Things have been checked out. Vincent, you ready to go?" Julius said.

"So, you guys are taking off?" Steve-from-acting-class asked, "It is New Year’s Eve. Thought we could all hang out?"

"Yeah, Steve-from-acting-class, we were thinking about heading up to the city known worldwide for gambling," Julius said.

"Come with us if you want,” Vincent said.

"Yeah, by all means, come along,” Julius stared at Vincent.

"I don't have money for that,” Steve-from-acting-class said.

Julius and Vincent thought they themselves had money for that.

They thought they had a lot of money.

They did not have a lot of money.

GOODBYE, S T E V E

Vincent and Julius left Steve-from-acting-class and the Southwestern city behind them and took the ruby-red go-fast machine onto a desert highway toward the city known worldwide for gambling—but not before Steve-from-acting-class said, "See ya later, homies."

The homies would not be seeing Steve-from-acting-class later.

They would never see him again.

A WESTERN

The ruby-red go-fast machine hit its cruising speed of one hundred and twenty miles an hour, and Julius flipped on the radio to the only channel that would come in—a man trumpeting the end of the world at midnight.

They listened to the doomsday radio alarmist for miles before Julius asked, "What possesses you to do some of the shit you do?"

“Like what?” Vincent asked.

“Like, decide to move out-of-the-blue across the country with a complete and total stranger.”

"Well, Julius, there is this western," Vincent said.

Vincent proceeded to tell Julius about the conversation with the two esteemed gentlemen—the professor and the writer.

About the two outlaw hero cowboys and the unrelenting force chasing them, and the cliff and the raging river.

That sometimes you just have to jump, and let the current of the raging river take you.

"A fucking movie?"

"It is the idea, Julius."

"A movie."

"Idea."

"You know how that movie ends? The two outlaw hero cowboys end up in a place they shouldn't be—a place they thought was a good idea. The unrelenting force catches them, and they die in a hail of violent gunfire."

"I have seen the movie."

"Jesus."

"You don't know the two outlaw hero cowboys died. They could have made it out."

"We also don't know if the world is going to end tomorrow, but I am pretty sure it isn't."

The brothers Julius and Vincent did not say another word to each other as they listened to the doomsday radio alarmist on their way to the city.

The city known worldwide for gambling.

DAM

Miles down that desert highway the ruby-red go-fast machine came upon something unexpected.

A desert traffic jam.

"What’s going on?" Vincent asked.

"I have no idea. We are not that close to the city known worldwide for gambling," Julius said as he pulled out a folded booklet map of the country.

"I know what it is," Vincent said.

"The dam. The dam where that famous gangster is buried," Julius said as he ran his finger along the desert highway in the booklet.

"Yep."

"It isn't for another twenty miles."

Traffic was completely stopped.

Editor's note: Vincent would like to point out that years later a massive highway and bridge would be built around the dam where the famous gangster was buried to avoid desert traffic jams like the one Julius and Vincent found themselves sitting in all afternoon.

BUNNY

Finally, past the desert traffic jam and dam where the famous gangster was buried, Vincent and Julius could see the lights from the city known worldwide for gambling.

Julius' eyes lit up.

"Okay, where are we staying?" Vincent asked.

"The gilded-lion movie studio hotel," Julius said.

"Cool, cool. I like that place."

Vincent drove the ruby-red go-fast machine through the congested streets to the gilded-lion movie studio hotel and began to pull into a crowded parking garage when an antsy Julius said, "Just valet it."

"Funny, no one drives the ruby-red go-fast machine but me," Vincent said.

Vincent and Julius walked through the front doors of the gilded-lion movie studio hotel and into the extravagant, vaulted, crowded lobby.

Wall to wall.

Shoulder to shoulder.

They waited half an hour before making their way to a check-in clerk named Bunny Watson.

"How may I help you gentlemen?" Bunny asked.

"We have a reservation under Julius Benedict," Vincent said.

"Umm, no we don't," Julius said to Vincent.

"You did not make a hotel reservation in the city known worldwide for gambling on New Year's Eve?" Vincent asked.

"We don't need a reservation," Julius said to Vincent.

"We don't need a reservation, do we?" Julius asked Bunny.

"You need a reservation. Kind of a big day," Bunny said while smiling at Julius.

"Really?" Julius said.

"It. Is. New. Year's. Eve. And the end of the world," Vincent said.

"Maybe we don't need a hotel room?" Julius asked no one.

"Let me see what I can do," Bunny said while still smiling at Julius.

Editor's note: Vincent and Julius' recollection conflicts at this point. Due to the stringent rules of “How to Drink Bourbon & Soda with Rocks," no speculation will be made about Bunny's motive for getting Vincent and Julius a hotel room or her handing Julius her personal business card.

Bunny miraculously found Vincent and Julius a room.

A room for one night.

It was going to cost them.

Vincent and Julius thought they had a lot of money.

They did not have a lot of money.

BOURBON AND SODA

The room Bunny miraculously found Vincent and Julius was impressive, but they wouldn’t be in there long. There was something they needed, and needed right now.

A cocktail.

In the city known worldwide for gambling, it was no surprise to Vincent and Julius that a cocktail was a necessity for all.

It was at that moment they witnessed the greatest bartender they had ever seen and would ever see.

An older gentleman who was pouring drinks, taking orders, running cards and making change for hundreds upon hundreds of drunken revelers—and doing it all with haste and a smile.

Vincent made his way through the mass of drunken revelers, and the older gentleman bartender immediately had two drinks in Vincent's hands.

Vincent handed Julius a cocktail, who took a sip and said, “My god.”

"Bourbon and sodas. Just started drinking them. They are delicious."

"God damn rocket fuel."

TWO THOUSAND

Vincent and Julius and their bourbon and sodas made their way out of the gilded-lion movie studio hotel and onto the blocked-off city street.

Surrounded by an endless sea of revelers.

Police officers positioned every fifty feet.

A car alarm blared close by.

"You getting that, or am I?" one positioned police officer said to the other as they both laughed.

.

It was minutes till midnight.

Vincent and Julius and their bourbon and sodas and hundreds of thousands of others all packed into the city known worldwide for gambling.

All waiting for the unknown.

"What do you think is going to happen?" Vincent asked Julius.

"I don't know."

.

It was seconds till midnight.

Three . . .

Two . . .

One . . .

The lights stayed on.

The revelers cheered.

Vincent said, "So much for the unknown.”

Julius said, "So much for the end of the world."

“Let’s go drink.”

“Let’s go gamble.”

FIVE CHIPS

Editor's note: Vincent and Julius’ recollection becomes hazy at this point in the story. To stick to the stringent rules of "How to Drink Bourbon & Soda with Rocks," the story will pick up where the brothers’ recollection becomes more clear.

It was five in the morning New Year’s Day.

Vincent and Julius were down to their last five hundred dollars.

They had thought they had a lot of money.

They certainly did not think that now.

“That’s it? That’s all we have left?” Vincent asked.

“Calm down. I know what I am doing,” Julius said.

"Calm down? You know what you are doing?" Vincent asked without wanting an answer. "You just lost thousands of dollars in a few hours. And you wonder what possesses me to do what I do? Fuck."

"Calm down. All of the tables are set to hundred dollar minimums. We are going to have big swings," Julius said.

"Big swings? Jesus. We are fucked."

Just then Vincent and Julius saw him.

They said in unison, "Holy shit, is that Apollo Creed?"

It was Apollo Creed.

He was surrounded by beautiful women and throwing dice at a craps table.

One of the beautiful women had a roll of hundreds so large that she could barely hold onto it.

Apollo had rows of chips in front of him.

Vincent was trying to do math in his bourbon-clouded brain—figuring out exactly what kind of money he was seeing.

That is when Julius, holding his five chips, walked up to an opening at the table.

Five hundred dollars.

Five measly chips.

PRIZE FIGHT

Julius loved to play craps.

He knew how to throw dice.

Vincent considered that what he witnessed next was one of the greatest feats he had ever seen.

Julius would call it a big swing.

Over the course of two hours, Julius could not lose.

Throw after throw.

Whatever he needed, the dice gave him.

Julius’ five measly chips now had friends, lots of friends—while Apollo Creed went bust.

Craps—like life—is a team sport.

Everyone is playing against the house.

Julius winning had nothing to do with Apollo losing.

Still, that did not stop Vincent from saying this:

"Julius Benedict defeated Apollo Creed."

.

Julius and Vincent thought they had a lot of money when they arrived in the city known worldwide for gambling.

They did not have a lot of money.

Now they did.

.

They went back to their impressive room provided by Bunny and called her, asking if they could get another night. Was there anything she could do?

There was.

Vincent and Julius got another night.

.

The next three nights were more of the same.

Vincent drank his bourbon and sodas. Julius gambled, and had his swings. They called Bunny every morning to ask for another night.

They paused only long enough each night to find the nicest restaurant they could and eat like kings with empires.

.

On the morning of the fourth day, there would be no morning call to Bunny.

Vincent and Julius had reached their limit.

They were leaving the city known worldwide for gambling.

DRUG RUNNERS

They had a long way home.

Vincent began to climb to the cruising speed of one hundred and twenty miles an hour when Julius said, "Can we just go the speed limit? We are not in a hurry."

Vincent gave Julius a break and drove the speed limit for once in his life.

Ten miles later it would happen.

The ruby-red go-fast machine was dawdling along at a painfully slow seventy miles an hour on the lone desert highway toward their Midwestern home when Vincent looked in the rearview mirror and said, "That is a holy fuck-ton of desert highway patrol cars."

A holy fuck-ton was actually four.

All four desert highway patrol cars with their sirens blaring.

"Well, let 'em pass," Julius said.

Vincent pulled the ruby-red go-fast machine off to the shoulder.

The desert highway patrol cars did not pass.

All four stopped directly behind the ruby-red go-fast machine.

"Why aren't they getting out of their cars?" Vincent asked.

"I don't know."

"Should we get out?"

"I don't know."

A megaphone blasted, "Driver! Keep your hands on the wheel and don't move a god damn muscle. Passenger, exit the vehicle and place your hands on your head."

"What the fuck is going on?" Vincent asked Julius.

"I don't know," Julius said as he got out of the ruby-red go-fast machine.

The desert highway patrolman came charging, guns drawn.

Julius slowly walked toward them.

They surrounded him, took his identification, and cuffed him as the desert highway patrolman in charge asked, "Drugs in the vehicle?"

"What?"

“Drugs. Ya got drugs in the car?”

“No. No drugs.”

"What’s your relationship to the driver?" motioning to Vincent who was not moving a god damn muscle.

"Vincent? He's my brother. Check our IDs."

"Son, ya tellin’ me what to do?"

"No. No, sir."

"Tell me about him?"

"Vin?"

"Yes."

"You want to know about, Vin?"

"I do. Why dontcha tell me everything ya know about him."

Julius told the desert highway patrolman in charge everything he knew about his brother—and was then sat down in the dusty desert.

It was Vincent’s turn.

The desert highway patrolman in charge said to Vincent, "Why dontcha tell me about your brother."

"Jules didn't do shit."

"Son, tell me about your brother."

Vincent told the highway patrolman in charge everything he knew about his brother and was then sat down in the dusty desert next to Julius.

Vincent and Julius watched as the desert highway patrolmen inspected the ruby-red go-fast machine.

After the inspection, Vincent and Julius were stood up and unshackled.

The highway patrolman in charge said, "Thank you for your cooperation. You are free to go."

"Umm," Vincent said.

"Vincent, let’s go," Julius said.

"No. What was this all about?"

"Boys, you two, the car, the out-of-state Midwestern plates, match the profile of some bad people we are looking for. You ain’t them.”

"Wasn't even speeding."

"Drug runners obey the posted speed limits.”

“Vin would make a lousy drug runner,” Julius said.

“Boys, take no offense to this, but maybe you two should ask your momma which one of ya’s is adopted.”

And the four desert highway patrol cars drove off.

"What . . . " Julius said.

" . . . in the fuck," Vincent said.

WARNINGS

Vincent and Julius listened to the doomsday radio alarmist spout multiple reasons behind the lack of a New Year's Eve apocalypse—aliens or time travelers. Or both.

The ruby-red go-fast machine blew through a Mormon state and was approaching the foothills of the mountains.

The ruby-red go-fast machine was designed to do two things. Those two things were abundantly, repeatedly crystal clear.

Be red.

Go fast.

Neither of those two things helped it scale mountains.

.

There was something else.

A storm.

A massive storm directly ahead of the ruby-red go-fast machine.

There were plenty of warnings. Warnings of all kinds. Big flashing warnings that said: “Do not go farther.”

Vincent and Julius did not heed the warnings.

They both simultaneously said, "How bad could it really be?"

The answer would soon be found.

Vincent and Julius drove up the mountain and into the storm.

SKI TOWN

At eight thousand feet, the blizzard had completely engulfed everything. Not a single thing could be seen through the front windshield of the ruby-red go-fast machine, which was barely crawling across the mountain.

Vincent and Julius both simultaneously said, “This is bad.”

“It wouldn’t matter if I could see or not. The second I press at all on the gas, the backend starts to swing around,” Vincent said.

“We need to find a place to stop,” Julius said.

“Where? I can’t see shit.”

It took Vincent and Julius two hours to drive the next three miles.

They could make out lights ahead.

A ski town.

They decided to slide the ruby-red go-fast machine into town.

Not a soul was around.

Everything was gated off.

The small roads that were open had no place to park.

"Julius . . . " Vincent said.

"Yeah?"

"We're running out of gas."

At the top of a mountain, in the middle of a blizzard, nearly out of gas, Vincent asked, "What are we going to do?"

"I don't know."

The brothers did not realize it at the time, but they were about to learn something important—besides not to drive a ruby-red go-fast machine up a mountain in a blizzard at midnight.

When there are no other options and faced with the unknown, there is only one thing to do—move forward.

So they did.

FORWARD

Vincent crawled the ruby-red go-fast machine back onto the mountain highway.

His knuckles were pale as he inched through the dark white.

Julius looked over and said, "Hey, Vin, you need me to drive?"

"Yeah. I think I do."

The two brothers slid around each other, switching seats.

Julius began to slowly roll the ruby-red go-fast machine across the mountain.

It was getting worse.

Julius could not see a thing.

"Vin, we gotta stop."

"Where?"

"Here.”

“Here?”

"Yep, right here."

"On the highway? We'll be crushed if something comes along."

"Vin, we are the only ones out here."

So, the two brothers stopped the car, on the highway, atop a mountain, in the middle of a blizzard.

"We are going to have to shut off the car," Julius said. "Or we won't have enough gas to get off this mountain."

FROZEN

Ice started to form inside the windows.

"Jules, I'm freezing."

"Yeah, me too."

"Think those time-traveling aliens can get us out of this jam?"

"I don't know."

The brothers tried to stay warm as the snow began to pile up around them.

Vincent's teeth were clattering.

The two brothers sat in cold silence until Julius said, "That fucking kid ate fifteen tacos."

"Right?" Vincent said.

"Devoured 'em."

"I get it, who doesn't like tacos?"

"Hard shells?"

"Fifteen of ‘em?"

"The tattoo?"

"All the fucking toasters?"

"Homey likes toast."

"And tacos."

"The dam where the gangster was buried was cool."

"It was. Could have gone without sitting there all afternoon though."

"Bunny liked you."

"Bullshit."

"Who doesn’t make a hotel reservation?"

"We didn't need one, did we?"

"Because Bunny liked you."

"Bourbon and soda?"

"That was the greatest bartender I have ever seen."

"Nothing happened at midnight."

"You defeated Apollo Creed."

"I did not defeat Apollo Creed."

"You certainly did."

"We look like drug runners."

"Never driving the speed limit again."

"A western?"

"They don't die in the end."

"Maybe they don't."

The two brothers fell asleep.

 

EPILOGUE

The brothers did not freeze to death.

They woke up.

The blizzard had cleared.

They started the ruby-red go-fast machine and crawled down the mountain on fumes.

It took them another three days to get home.

Along the way they saw complete devastation. Burnt-out husks of tractor-trailers. Off-road vehicles on their sides. Abandoned cars for miles. It looked like the end of the world.

The brothers eventually pulled back in front of the cozy pseudo Irish bar.

Julius said, "Vin, I hope the current of that raging river takes you where you need to go."

"Yeah, me too."

"How to Drink Bourbon & Soda with Rocks" will continue . . .